Climbing the Ticket Sales Ladder, The Journey of Cody Haynes

By: Chase McCaskill, @itsmechase

Cody Haynes, Director of Ticket Sales, Houston Rockets

Front Office Sports had the great opportunity to speak with Cody Haynes, Director of Ticket Sales for the Houston Rockets. Cody started his career with the Phoenix Coyotes and worked his way through the ranks to earn his current position for the Houston Rockets. Cody was able to highlight the importance of establishing your personal brand as well as networking early and often. He offers up encouraging advice for those who may not have a background in sales and details the qualities that make successful ticket sales representatives. Cody’s passion for ticket sales and hard work make it easy to see why his sales teams are so successful.

By looking at your resume, you’ve really grinded it out in ticket sales. Can you talk about the path to your current position, Director of Ticket Sales, with the Rockets?

“In college I always assumed I’d work in an athletic department at the collegiate level with the ultimate goal being an Athletic Director. In my last semester of school I discovered the ticket sales side of sports and started applying for positions anywhere and everywhere. I didn’t care where I lived. I ended up getting a call from the Phoenix Coyotes and took the typical route of a ticket sales professional. I grinded it out through inside sales, working my way up to a group sales rep. Group sales wasn’t really the department I wanted to be in, but looking back now it provided some really good experience for my position today. The Coyotes at the time were going through some instability so I ended up making a lateral move to the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are a great organization and they really let you do things outside of your job description, which has helped me grow and get to where I am today.”

What was the most important experience you had that prepared you for the rest of your career?

“The most important experience I’ve had is when I picked up and moved to Phoenix to pursue inside sales. I didn’t have any family in Phoenix so it was just my wife and me. This experience taught us a lot, especially how to rely on each other and your hard work. I moved all the way out to Phoenix from Louisiana so I couldn’t go out there and fail, I had to be successful.”

Can you speak a little bit about the grind known as ticket sales?

“Ticket sales is super competitive, everyone is trying to get into the industry. Ticket sales (inside sales) is the way into the industry. If money is important to you then don’t work in ticket sales. You really need a passion to want to work for a sports franchise. Another thing to realize is that we don’t get the chance to watch many of the games. We are busy working games because, if you think about it, we have 18,000 leads in the building. During the season, we are working some long hours. We don’t ever really get to sit down and enjoy four quarters of an NBA game.“

What is your key to sales? What qualities do you possess and have instilled into your teams that has brought you so much success?

“You must intrinsically have work ethic. You might have 10, 20, or 30 inside sales reps and only two promotions, so work ethic and being competitive are important. We generally hire reps right out of college so you’ve got to have good character. Another thing is being open to new ideas and being able to adapt. The business world and how we sell is definitely changing, so being able to adapt to the newer generation (social selling) has helped me out. Lastly, just have a personality. You need to be able to network and grow your career. You have to possess a personality or you’re dead in the water.”

What can collegiate students and young business professionals, interested in ticket sales/working in sports, be doing now to pursue that opportunity?

“Whether it’s college students or just people wanting to get into the industry, get out there and get some real world experience in sports. You need to get as much real world experience and then make connections with people. This industry is like a fraternity, everyone knows everyone. If you are well connected you will get a job or at least a good referral from somebody who will help you get a job.”

What is the most important thing you look for in candidates throughout the hiring process? What sets certain candidates apart from the rest?

“I never expect a college kid to know how to sell tickets, that is something in which we can train them. We don’t expect you to know how to sell tickets your first day. The number one thing I look for is someone with good character and someone who is an all-around good person. A good personality is also very important. You will probably be making 50–100 phone calls to strangers and you are going to have to be able to make conversation like you’ve known each other for years. Last, I look for coach-ability in candidates. Good character, great personality, and coach-ability, from here we can teach our candidates how to sell tickets.”

How do you maintain a team-oriented culture in such a highly competitive industry?

“We make sure that our reps understand the big picture and that we’re all in this together. Our motto is “One Team.” We want to know that our reps have a clear idea of the end goal. I always preach, in a weird way, that our reps have an effect on the game. If you are at a home playoff game, and its going nuts, then you know you had something to do with that atmosphere. Maybe you only sold 100 tickets for that game, but you still had an effect on the atmosphere. We will set some individual goals but we always have our big picture, organizational goals and we reward for meeting goals.”

Social media is booming these days, how do you work collectively with your social media team to drive ticket sales? How do your representatives use social media as a selling tool?

“We have a whole social media department and with any social media post there is always a way to get back to our ticket sales. Regarding the reps, in the past it was always ‘smile and dial,’ but now there are so many other ways to sell. We’ve implemented a structure so that all of our focus isn’t on a phone call. We take time out of our day to put the phone down and do some research on LinkedIn, trying to find leads that way. We make sure to credit our reps with things they do on Twitter or Facebook. I think this sends a message to the younger generation that we’re on board with social media. If [social media] can help you, then why not use it? Buyers now are so educated before they even pick up the phone to call us so we need to be the same way with them. We need to be educated on our prospects before we ever speak with them and social media can help us with this task.”

How can students and young business professionals utilize and train themselves in social media now so that it can be a skill to be leveraged later in their career?

“For college students, start building your brand early. Don’t wait until your last semester to start looking like a professional on social media. Obviously, separate personal from professional, I don’t want to see anyone doing keg stands on Twitter… Start building your network early and take a business approach to social media.”

Do you use social media as a recruitment tool for candidates?

“Yes. We have multiple people on our inside sales staff whom I was connected via social media. I pretty much recruit fully on LinkedIn. I don’t like posting a job online most of the time because you get so many resumes and so many applicants. If someone’s LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and well organized then that means they care about their outward appearance. For me, the first step of recruitment is always LinkedIn.”

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give our readers?

“Work on your personal brand and get yourself out there if you are trying to break into the industry. For me, I just started utilizing Twitter and social media three years ago, but I am now such a firm believer in it. You need to build your personal brand early, don’t wait until you graduate. In summary, build your brand and get real world experience. “

We would like to thank Cody for taking time out of his day to offer up some great advice for our readers!

You can follow Cody on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn here.